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That's "humor" for those of you who are "from away".

Here you'll find some New England humor, and a glossary of purely Vermont phrases that'll help you fit right in when you visit.



Back in the early days when there were still daily trains from Burlington to most everywhere, there were two old ladies who rode the train every Saturday from Burlington to Boston. They would nod to one another but rode in separate cars and never spoke. One day, when the train was crowded, they both happened to sit together. And one says to the other, "I've seen you ride this train every Saturday afternoon to Boston and I've always wondered about it. What do you do in Boston?" The other replied, "Why, I go into Boston to get scrod because I can't get it in Burlington." The first lady said, "You know, I've been a schoolteacher for 30 years and I never knew what the past tense of that verb was."

 — (based on a story by Peter Kilham)
Walter and The Horse

Walter lived a piece out in the country and periodically would hitch the horse up to the wagon and come into town for supplies. One time he got the wagon just up top he top of Grain Hill and all of a sudden that horse just stopped on him. Well, sir, he figured that a little piece of newspaper or a small animal had just startled the horse some. He just clucked at the horse and flicked the reins and said, "C'mon now, Daisy, let's get moving." But that horse just stood there. So he took the whip out of the sockets and started belaboring the horse something awful, but she still didn't move.

He was just about to get out and build a fire under her to see if that'd get her moving when he seen a feller come walking up over the hill. It turned out to be Foster's oldest boy, Junior. Junior comes up and says, "Looks like you be having a little horse trouble there, Mr. Wheeler." Walter says, "Well. I've been working on this animal 'bout every way I know how for the past 15 minutes and she just won't budge. Something's scared it." Junior says, "I've got a little something in my back pocket just might get that horse a-moving." Walter replies, "Well, I'd sure appreciate it if you could help me some."

Junior reaches around to his pocket and takes out a small bottle and says, "Now, Mr. Wheeler, this here's turpentine. If you'll just come around and lift up this horse's tail, I'll put a couple of drops right where I think it'll do the most good." Well, he did, and that horse's head came straight up and he snorted once or twice and took off so fast toward the village that you couldn't see the buggy or the horse for the dust.

Walter turns to Junior and says, "Junior, I don't know as I've ever seen a better job of horse starting that that one. There's only one thing that bothers me some, and that is that I was kind of hoping to get down to the village myself. And that ain't all: I've got to catch that horse. I don't suppose you'd have one or two more drops of that stuff left, would you?"

 — (based on a story by Foster Wheeler)
Nathan and His Model T

Nathan Frethey and his wife lived on this side of Smuggler's Notch and he was powerful proud of his Model T Ford. "The best Model T in the valley," says he. "She was a honey. There was one thing about her, though. She wouldn't run up through the notch without boiling over. So I had to stop at the spring each time and give her some water." Well, there was one warm spring evening when Nathan and his missus thought they'd head over the notch to go to the picture show. So he cranked up the Model T and got the vehicle shudderin' and ready to go.

Off they went, up the mountain, not another vehicle in sight. And near the top he pulled over, as he always did, and got the bucket out of the back seat and trudged on down to the spring and brought back a bucket of spring water and poured it into the radiator. And she was so dry, she just swallowed the whole bucket and seemed to be asking for more. So he walked down to the spring and filled the bucket a second time and brought it back. This time the Model T only took about a quarter of the bucket before it started running over the top of the radiator. So Nathan tossed the rest of the water into the bushes by the side of the road.

Well, a fellow's head popped up, soaking wet, and began to unleash a string of profanity the likes of which Nathan had seldom heard before. When he finally paused to take a breath Nathan said, "That's no way to talk in polite company. Can't you see I've got a lady in the car?" The fellow yells back, "Well, what do you think I've got here in the bushes, a duck?"

 — (based on a story by Alan Bemis)

Sylvester and his woman, they lived about as far back in the bush as you could go. And once a year he'd hitch up the wagon and come out to buy supplies — a barrel of flour, side of beef, twenty pounds of coffee, and so on. He'd load up the wagon and head back into the bush. The fellers in the store, they'd get in the habit of asking him, "Sylvester, what's new?" And he'd say, "Got a new boy. Six pounds, five ounces." And the next year, they'd ask again, and he says, "A fine girl. Seven pounds, four ounces. Gonna be a heartbreaker, I can tell." After awhile, it got to be kind of a town tradition. Folks knew pretty much to the day when he'd show up and they'd line up outside the store and shout, "Sylvester, what's new?"

It got so that folks lost track of how many kids he did have, much less their names. Along about the fourteenth year, folks were lined up and somebody said, "Well, Sylvester, give us the the good news. What is it this time, a boy or a girl?" He looks them straight in the eye and says, "It ain't nothin' this year." That set folks back some, and one of them said, "Well, Sylvester, what went wrong?" Sylvester says, "Ain't a damn thing went wrong. We just finally found out what's been causing it."

 — (based on a story by Foster Wheeler)
The Half-Wit

A man owned a small farm in Vermont. The Vermont State Wage & Hour Department claimed he was not paying proper wages to his help and sent an agent out to interview him.

"I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them," demanded the agent.

"Well," replied the farmer, "there's my farm hand who's been with me for 3 years. I pay him $200 a week plus free room and board. The cook has been here for 18 months, and I pay her $150 per week plus free room and board. Then there's the half-wit who works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here. He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of bourbon every Saturday night. He also sleeps with my wife occasionally."

"That's the guy I want to talk to - the half-wit," says the agent.

"That would be me," replied the farmer.

 — Thanks to Joan Bingham
Mud Season

Ethan and his wife, Martha, are sitting on the porch on a warm and windy Spring day in the middle of mud season. Martha looks out toward the road and says, "Mister, ain't that a hat movin' out theah on the road?"

Ethan squints and says, "Yup. Looks like Arthur McGann's hat, from down the valley."

They sit for awhile longer, and Martha says, "Mister, you don't s'pose he's lost his hat in the wind, do ya?"

Ethan shouts out toward the road, "Arthur, you out theah?"

A hand comes out of the mud and raises the hat, and a voice comes back. "Mornin', Ethan. Mornin', Martha."

"You need any help theah, Arthur?"

"No, thank you kindly. The horse knows the way."

Vermont And The Devil

A man dies and finds himself in a large room standing in line with bunch of people that have also died. As he stands there, he sees God and Satan working their way down the line. As God selects someone from the line, they are escorted to an escalator glowing with Heavenly light. As Satan selects someone, they are dumped down a chute to the fires below.

As the man watches, every so often Satan takes someone out of the line and throws them to one side and onto a pile of other people, stacking them like firewood rather than throwing them down the chute. The man sees this happen quite often and finally his curiosity gets the best of him and he steps out of line and approaches Satan.

"Excuse me, Mr. Satan. I h..h..hate to bother you while you're so b..b..busy, but I have a question."

Satan looks at him with an evil glare, but finally speaks.

"What's your question? Hurry up, I'm going to fall behind!"

The man gulps, and then asks, "Why do you sometimes take people out of line and throw them on a pile rather than down the chute to Hell?"

"Ah, that's simple! The ones on the pile are from Vermont and they're too cold and wet to burn....."

Hunting Season

First day of hunting season arrives and a group of friends head off to deer camp. They pair off in twos for the day and head out. That night, one of the hunters returns alone, staggering under the weight of an eight-point buck. "Where's Henry?" the others ask.

"Henry had a stroke of some kind. He's a couple of miles back up the trail," the hunter replies.

"You left Henry laying out there and carried the deer back?" they inquire, shocked.

"A tough call," nods the hunter. "But I figured no one is going to steal Henry!"

Mark Twain Encounters Vermont

This is supposedly a true story and exhibits the famous New England stoicism. Samuel Clemens -- writing as Mark Twain -- earned the bulk of his living in later years touring the country and reading from his works to paying audiences. It was an extremely successful venture, and he had fine-tuned his delivery to elicit huge laughs from his audience wherever he appeared.

Passing through Vermont, he stopped to give a reading at a town hall. All the seats were filled, and Clemens stepped up to the lectern and began his talk. Reaching the first line which always drew a laugh, he was greeted instead with... silence. He stumbled, but continued on. At the next laugh line, he got only silence again.

This pattern repeated through the entire lecture. By this time Clemens is visibly sweating, wondering what he is doing wrong. At the end, he thanks the audience and receives strong applause.

Now he's desperate to find out what he's done wrong. As people begin to file out, Clemens quickly slips out the back and hides in the shadows by the front steps to overhear the comments of the people leaving. A farm couple descends the steps and the woman asks her husband, "So what'd you think of him?"

He says, "That be the funniest man I've ever heard. A couple times theah, almost laughed out loud."

Vermont Women

Three men were sitting together bragging about how they had given their new wives duties. The first man had married a woman from Alabama, and bragged that he had told his wife she was going to do all the dishes and house cleaning that needed done at their house. He said that it took a couple days but on the third day he came home to a clean house and the dishes were all washed and put away.

The second man had married a woman from Florida. He bragged that he had given his wife orders that she was to do all the cleaning, dishes, and the cooking. He told them that the first day he didn't see any results, but the next day it was better. By the third day, his house was clean, the dishes were done, and he had a huge dinner on the table.

The third man had married a Vermont girl. He boasted that he told her that her duties were to keep the house cleaned, dishes washed, lawn mowed, laundry washed and hot meals on the table for every meal. He said the first day he didn't see anything, the second day he didn't see anything, but by the third day most of the swelling had gone down and he could see a little out of his left eye enough to fix himself a bite to eat, load the dishwasher,and telephone a landscaper.

Light Bulbs
How many Vermonters does it take to change a light bulb?

Three. One to change the bulb and two to sit around discussing how they liked the old one better.

The Farmer And The Yuppie

A farmer was overseeing his herd in a remote pasture in Vermont when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him.

The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, RayBan sunglasses and YSL tie leans out the window and asks the farmer, "If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?"

The farmer looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, "Sure, why not?"

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS SQL Server database through an ODBC-connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and finally turns to the farmer and says, "You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves."

"That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves," says the farmer.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then he says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?"

The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"

"You're a Congressman for the U.S. Government", says the farmer.

"Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"

"No guessing required," answered the farmer. "You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You tried to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing about cows...this is a herd of sheep. . . .Now give me back my dog."

21 Ways To Know You're From Northern Vermont
  1. Your idea of a traffic jam is 10 cars waiting to pass a logging truck
  2. Vacation means going to Burlington.
  3. You measure distance in hours.
  4. You know several people who have hit a moose more than once.
  5. You use a down comforter in the summer.
  6. You see people wearing hunting clothes at social events.
  7. You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.
  8. You think of the major food groups as deer meat, beer, fish, and berries.
  9. You carry jumper cables in your car and your girlfriend knows how to use them.
  10. You think sexy lingerie is tube socks and flannel pajamas.
  11. It takes you 3 hours to go to the store for one item even when you're in a rush, because you have to stop and talk to everyone in town.
  12. Someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don't work there.
  13. You've worn shorts and a parka at the same time.
  14. You've had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number.
  15. You have switched from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day and back again
  16. You can drive 75 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching.
  17. You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.
  18. You think driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.
  19. You know all four seasons: Almost winter, winter, still winter, and road construction.
  20. You have more miles on your snow blower than your car.
  21. You find 10 degrees "a little chilly".

Useful Phrases
Features of the Vermont accent generally include: Dropping the "g" from "ing" and pronouncing the hard "i" as "oy." Expanding one-syllable words such as "cow" into "ka-ow." Swallowing words with "t," in what linguists call the glottal stop, to say kih'en instead of "kitten" and "nah" instead of "not. (per Pamela Ferdinand of the Washington Post)
  • I'm so hungry I could eat the north end of a southbound skunk
  • They was walkin' down the street, side by each.
  • He's as stubborn as a pig on ice.
  • I'm goin' downstreet to do some shopping
  • Drier than a covered bridge
  • Darker than a pocket
  • Harder than Chinese algebra.
  • Least said, soonest mended
  • I may be a fool, but I'm not a damned fool.
  • Well, I'll be a son-of-a...(not completed)
  • Who cut your hair with a bucksaw and made it turn out curly?
  • I can't remember two times 'round a broomstick (somewhat forgetful)
  • That man's not worth a peanut shuck
  • Higher than a woodpecker's hole
  • Too much for the pump
  • He doesn't need that any more than a frog needs sideburns
  • A couple-three (two or three)
  • So dry the trees are following the dogs around
  • My back is stiffer than a wedding drink
  • The wind blows hard, so often, that it quit one day last week and everyone fell down.
  • Hotter than a little tin hell with a cover
  • Slower than molasses running uphill in January
  • It rained enough to wrinkle the spinach
  • There'll be frost on the pumpkin tonight
  • Snow deeper than a tall Swede
  • Scarcer than hen's teeth
  • Slicker than snot on a doorknob
  • So noisy it could wake the living dead
  • I'm so sick that I'd have to get well to die
  • I'm so broke I can't even pay attention.
  • Dumber than a box of rocks.
  • Handy as a hog winding a watch.
  • Hotter than the hubs of hell.
  • Tighter than the bark on a tree (stingy).
  • It's a matter of horse sense.
  • Cats granny! (an exclamation of surprise or disgust).
  • He thinks he's top turd on the wheelbarrow.
  • Pret-near (almost).
  • A chewing match (an argument).
  • Right out straight (busy).
  • Thicker than hair on a dog (close).
  • So homely his face hurts.
  • Fog goes up the mountain a-hoppin, rain comes down a droppin'.
  • Rain before seven, done by eleven.
  • Wouldn't run uphill after it.
  • Two clapboards below zero.
  • Tougher than boiled owl.
  • A frog-hair more (a bit more).
  • Poor man's got two dogs; damn poor man's got four.
  • Cut cross-lots (take a short-cut).
  • Doesn't know enough to suck alum and drool.
  • Doesn't know enough to pound sand in a rat hole.
  • He'd never lay out for lack of a handle to drag him in by. (He's got a big nose.)
  • By gory.
  • Sugar snow (big flakes that fall during sugaring season).
  • I feel like I've been drug through a knothole (all tuckered out).
  • Dryer than a popcorn fart.
  • Pretty rough sleddin'.
  • He/she's quite a riggin' (an outlandish character, but likeable).
  • A hell-a-tee-ding-dong (going fast down a hill).
  • God all fishhooks!
  • Down-country (any state south of Vermont).
  • Poorer than Job's turkey.
  • There'll be white blackbirds by the time he gets done.
  • Early to bed and early to rise makes a man father of a large family.
  • If he had half a brain, it would be lonesome.
  • Too lazy to shake the dead flies off.
  • So lazy he married a pregnant woman.
  • Rollin' around like a sow on an apple barrel.
  • He hasn't got a pot to cook in, or a window to look through.
  • Disgusting enough to make a minister swear.
  • Colder than the south side of a light pole.
  • Worth about as much as a hole in the snow.
  • That coffee's colder than Billy-be-damned.
  • Them heifers took off in forty-'leven different directions.
  • Uglier than a hedge fence.
  • I don't read music enough to spoil my playing.
  • If you ain't never done it before, do it by guess and by gosh.
  • It's plumb some, but not plumb plumb (almost perfect).
  • Yes, sir, Mr. Dooley!
  • Colder than a witch's brass broomstick.
  • Lazier than a peach orchard bull.
  • Tighter than a boar's rear end in fly time.
  • Hard telling, not knowing. (No one knows what this means. [Ed.])
  • Drier than a cork leg.
  • Down cellar behind the axe (Two meanings: busy or hiding).
  • Like cold potatoes, better warmed up.
  • Get your hair cut pompadour (Get it cut very short).
  • Chewing the rag (Light conversation).
  • The silent hog eats all the swill.
  • Built close to the ground (A short person).
  • An educated fool.
  • Can't blame a fool for what he doesn't know.
  • Homely in the cradle, pretty at the table.
  • So don't I (So do I).
  • 'Bout as sprightly as a dead tree.
  • Snow butt-high to a tall cow.
  • The lord made her ugly; then he scared her.
  • He was the meanest man that ever wore a pair of shoes.
  • Familiarity leads to conception.
  • As well as a June bride.
  • Happy as a toad lapping lightning.
  • Hen wet her apron! (A substitute for profanity).
  • Height the land.
  • Harder than Chinese algebra.
  • Well, snatch me bald-headed.
  • Well, that just eats my lunch.
  • Vermonster (What Vermonters call themselves but will not allow flatlanders to call them).
  • Outlanders: those from away, or dudes (Urban people who come to Vermont looking like L.L. Bean or Orvis centerfolds).
  • He was so crooked, when they buried him, they had to screw him into the ground. And not only that, when they screwed him into the ground, they made sure it was head first, just in case he ever came back to life and tried to dig his way out he'd have to take the long way up.
  • Sweet Jerusalem on a bicycle!
  • Don't get your bowels in an uproar.
  • As free from brains as a frog from feathers.
  • Howling like the hounds of hell.
  • Goin' down to Canada.
  • Colder than your grandmother's preserves.
  • More nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
  • Straighter than a die.
  • About as useless as a screen door on a submarine.
  • Got more brass than Carter's got liver pills.
  • As crooked as a lawyer.
  • It's enough to jar your mother's onions.
  • Rather have what he owes than what he owns.
  • One of those side-hill clodgers (A rather unrespectable person).
  • Skinny as a rail fence.
  • Mister, I tell you (or: mister, I'm a-tellin').
  • Homely enough to stop a freight train.

  • (Thanks to Randy Kennedy for those below...)
  • Tighter'n bark on a tree. (cheapskate)
  • He's so fat if he had to haul ass he'd have to make 2 trips. (overweight)
  • Roads'r like a bottle. (icy roads)
  • Numbr'n a post. (stupid person)
  • A few bricks short of a pallet. (dimwitted)
  • A few ants short of a picnic. (dimwitted)
  • Darker'n the inside of a cow. (pitch dark out)
  • Damn thing runs like shit downhill. (faulty engine)
  • That's 'bout as smart as pushin' a chain uphill. (a stupid idea)
  • He's full of piss 'n vinegar. (he's a feisty person)
  • Weren't no... (there wasn't any)
  • Took a smell of it. (smelled it)


a real turd floater
a very heavy rainstorm
the five seasons
Summer, Fall, Winter, Mud, and Spring
the pipes carrying water or sewage, as in "Yer loins're all clogged. We'll hafta clean 'em owt."
Anyone not from a mountainous environment, a label applied by locals of a mountain region, either pejoratively or in well-meaning contempt, to outsiders. There are various regional meanings. In Vermont and northern New Hampshire, a flatlander is any non-native, but particularly one from southern New England (including Massachusetts), downstate New York, or New Jersey, and very particularly one who has recently moved to Vermont or northern New Hampshire and would prefer that the state change to better accommodate newcomers, rather than the other way around.
Creek, as in "There's a brook that flows through my backyard."
Traffic circle. As in, "Be careful to yield when you enter the rotary."
Idea, pronouced as if it has ended with an 'R'. As in, "I had an idear about your problem."
Driveway, as in "I pulled into my dooryard and hit my brother's car."
Jeezum Crow!
Sometimes jokingly referred to as the Vermont State Bird, Jeezum Crow is the most popular mild oath of Vermont. Vermonters don't tend to swear with quite the frequency or vehemence that they've noticed in other locations in the country, and Jeezum Crow is often about as dastardly as it gets. Example: Jeezum Crow! They got that road tore up so bad this summer it nigh on knocked my shocks off!
A tough row to hoe
A perplexing personal problem or situation requiring staunch stoicism on the part of the person being discussed. Generally said sympathetically, as in: Gerald's trying to finish up at college and run the farm at the same time since his dad left us, and that's a tough row to hoe. If you don't know what hoeing a row means, then you haven't got a garden, meaning that you are not yet attached to the land or haven't been living here long.
We'll see how it sugars off
Sometime after the January thaw and before Mud Season, the maple sap starts running, the sugarers start tapping and hauling and boiling, and the sap gets poured into the evaporator to see how it sugars off. Much like running it up the flagpole to see how she flies, this expression is used to refer to the peaceful state of waiting to see how something all works out.
Well, a flatlander (see definition above) might think this term means what happens when your tires hit black ice on a mountain road. They'd be wrong; that'd be slidin, which is also what they call sledding around here. Skidding means hauling logs out of the woods to a landing, which is where logs, not airplanes, go before being trucked to the mill to make just about anything you can name made out of wood.
Late in the summer, you'll see farm equipment racing (perhaps racing isn't the right word) up and down the roads with a plume of green stuff flying off the tops of the trailers. Give the farmer's trucks and tractors a wide berth they are deep into choppin, which is grinding up the sileage, that being the corn kernels, leaves, plants, and all that fills up those tall things called silos next to the barn so that the cows can eat in the winter. Not to be confused with cuttin, meaning taking in the hay, which, in fact, can only be done when the sun shines. You didn't think anyone would make up a thing like that, did you?
Sometimes spelled Creemee. You might know something similar as a soft ice cream or a frozen custard, but in Vermont, they are creamies, in vanilla, chocolate, or twist, with rainbow or chocolate sprinkles. Nothing tops off an afternoon at the swimming hole better than a nice creamie.